The Swiss Army is a force that is so well-armed that the country escaped both World Wars because the able-bodied men aged 18 above are conscripted and ready to fight as La Résistance. This (along with the Swiss reputation for marksmanship and high-quality rifles) has resulted in the following, possibly apocryphal, conversation, along the lines of:
Because of its time-honored policy of neutrality, it does not participate in foreign wars since 1815 [after the Napoleonic conflicts], though it does participate in peacetime operations.
The Swiss Military conscripts its male citizens 18 to 50 years old. Females can join voluntarily, though the idea of female conscription for non-combat purposes has existed for a long time. Those who are unfit may either join a civilian service [as cooks, medics, paramilitary construction workers, etc.] or pay extra tax.
There had been movements to abolish the army. Both failed, since many Swiss are quite happy to have an army [and keep their guns at home, since the Swiss Army is essentially like the National Guard in the United States].
Responsible for trope Swiss-Army Weapon, the Swiss Army Knife is still used in the military and probably will still be used in the future. The military version, as opposed to the commercial versions, is green camouflage in color and doesn't have a superfluity of blades/tools. Also, Swiss Army Knives are only produced by two companies: Victorinox and Wenger. A long-standing agreement is that Victorinox products are marketed as "the Original Swiss Army Knife" while Wenger's knives are "the Genuine Swiss Army Knife". Though Victorinox recently bought out Wenger, the latter continues to be operated as a separate brand and subsidiary, and the separate marketing slogans have been retained. Everybody else who makes similar knives sells "Swiss Style Pocket Knives". To claim otherwise is to feel the wrath of a Swiss Army of Lawyers, every bit as feared as the Swiss Mercenaries and probably three times as bloodthirsty.
The Swiss also created the Cool Gun SIG SG-550, the MOWAG Piranha Awesome Personnel Carrier, and many other cool weapons. They don't make their own planes though and have to buy from France [Mirage fighters] and the U.S [F-18 Hornet fighters], with the next generation currently undefined, as the vote for the Swedish [Gripen fighters] failed. Many Swiss Air Force hangers are carved out of mountainsides, and the nation's highways are reinforced to serve as runways if needed.
One note that might be made is that the Swiss Army wasn't always so, well, respectable. They were once the most ferocious Private Military Contractors in Europe, their pikemen contributing to major revolutions in military doctrine, and the cost of their pikemen contributing to several national bankruptcies. Later they were highly valued and formed part of the bodyguard of several European monarchs, including the King of France. In this role they made a Last Stand defending the King during the August 10th Insurrection of The French Revolution, where sections of Parisians, allied with provincial federal soldiers and the National Guard stormed the Tuileries Palace and demanded the King's custody. The Swiss Guards refused to surrender and in the resulting battle, 600 of them were killed (300 Revolutionaries dead) while Louis XVI fled and sought salvation at the newly formed National Assembly (they would later guillotine him). Interestingly, in the Napoleonic Wars, they wore red coats which made them easy to confuse with British, against whom they were sometimes arrayed as part of the forces of Napoléon Bonaparte. The Pope still uses Swiss troops as guards (the only exception to the eventual Swiss ban on serving as mercenaries) - they may look a bit behind the times, with their sixteenth-century outfits, but underneath the poofy sleeves and wacky colors, they're heavily armed and (reportedly) armored. The Swiss Guard troops not on ceremonial duty stay mostly out of sight wearing more practical uniforms◊note . An example of this was seen in 1981 when an assassination attempt was made against the Pope; the "hidden" Swiss Guards came out with submachine guns ready.
During the World Wars, they enforced their country's neutrality well. Several times they shot and forced down planes of both belligerents who were intruding on their airspace, including 11 Luftwaffe planes, most of them while flying Messerschmitt fighters that they had purchased from Germany! Well, Hitler got so annoyed with them in the end, that he attempted to sabotage their airfields, to no avail. When the Allies accidentally bombed Swiss cities, the Swiss captured up to 100 US bombers and their crews meanwhile. Notwithstanding these incidents, however, the value that the Swiss provided as a convenient neutral for diplomacy, espionage, money laundering, etc. was so great that neither side seriously considered launching a full-scale attack on the Swiss, notwithstanding occasional threats.
- Several Vatican Swiss Guards appear in Angels and Demons. They're involved in the search for antimatter, and both the commandant and his second-in-command end up dead — the former killed by the Hassassin and the latter by one of his own soldiers after being mistaken for an Illuminatus.
- The Swiss Guard provides the primary forces for an expedition to the Posleen homeworld, in The Tuloriad.
- In Tom Clancy's The Sum of All Fears, the Swiss Guard provides the soldiers used to help enforce Ryan's Middle East peace plan.
- In Tom Kratman's Caliphate, surrounded by a Europe overtaken by a Muslim Caliphate, They eventually help in the search for Hamilton and co, after being informed that Switzerland was on the Caliphate's target list for the virus that Hamilton was sent to capture and neutralize.
- In Hamlet, Claudius refers to his "Switzers". The King of Denmark as imagined by Shakespeare evidently has a Swiss Guard.
- In an episode of Sliders, the group arrives on a world where America is at war with Switzerland. America is losing.
- Two Swiss regiments appear in The Rose of Versailles: the Gardes Suisses as part of the royal guard, and a detachment from the Salis-Samade help defending the Bastille, killing Oscar in the process.
- Recruit Sophie, a one-shot manga chapter by Kuji Mitsuhisa (the author of Wolfsmund) that follows a new recruit named Sophie in the modern-day Swiss Army.
- At the start of the novel Where Eagles Dare, the aircraft carrying the protagonists is revealed to be flying over Switzerland. The crew explain that this is their normal route for when they're on a bombing raid, and that the Swiss have objected in the past. The pilot, who in the event of being forced to crash would rather spend the rest of the war in a Geneva hotel as opposed to a POW camp, claims it's the Luftwaffe flying planes with RAF markings in order to discredit him. This snippet did not make it into the movie.